Thursday, 27 December 2012

An Interview with Chas S. Clifton

Hot on the heels of my earlier interview with Dr. Dave Evans, today I talk with Chas S. Clifton, the eminent American academic who remains one of the most important figures in the multidisciplinary academic field known as Pagan Studies. The author of Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America (2006), the first historical study of this new religious movement in the United States, since 2004 he has also operated as editor of both The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, a peer-reviewed academic journal, and of AltaMira's Pagan Studies series of books, being at the forefront of research into this ever-expanding subject. I ask him about these various ventures, and what life has been like for him as both a Pagan and an academic in the United States.

Clifton (in the sunglasses and Indiana Jones hat),
 at a recent Pagan festival.
EDW: In your publications, you are open about having been a practising Pagan since at least your undergraduate days back in Portland, Oregon. How did you first become involved in this new religious movement, then a relatively new phenomenon in American popular consciousness ? Did you begin by going it alone as a solitary practitioner or were you first involved in a coven or other group ? Furthermore, what would you describe as your own personal Pagan path today ?

I was one of those people who got involved by reading a book, because I certainly knew no Pagan practitioners in the early 1970s. In my case, I was 21, an undergraduate, working on a summer job helping one of my former teachers to build a large adobe house near Taos, New Mexico. One evening, when he and his partner had gone backpacking for a couple of days, I was examining his book collection and found Robert Graves’ The White Goddess. I knew nothing about it, yet something seemed to tickle my mind and say, "You were supposed to read this." So I did—in two evenings. I know that the book’s literary scholarship is suspect, but the first chapters were really enough for me. Suddenly it seemed that there was a religion for poets (as I then fancied myself), one that did not revolve around renunciation nor seem to end at the city limits, with nothing to say about the non-human world. I went back for my final year at Reed College and read virtually everything Graves had written. Reed required an undergraduate thesis, and mine was a book of poems titled Queen Famine, which comes from a line of his. Later I performed a self-initiation rite, taken from another book (Hans Holzer’s The New Pagans)! It worked. (Link: http://blog.chasclifton.com/?p=123)

It was another eighteen months or so later and after a move from Oregon back to Colorado when I connected with my first group, which was actually a lodge of would-be Thelemic magicians. I learned the basics of their system, but it did not really touch my heart. The next year I connected with a Colorado coven—if you have read Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, it’s the Colorado group described in the first chapter. Things progressed from there.

For a few years, my wife (we were joined in public Pagan wedding 35 years ago) and I were involved with that coven and later with our own. In the mid-1980s "some god or daemon" told me to go to graduate school (I had worked mainly as a newspaper and magazine journalist), and at the same time I started my own "zine," Iron Mountain: A Journal of Magical Religion. (Later Fritz Muntean would tell me that it helped to inspire him to start The Pomegranate in the 1990s.) Mary and I sold our house in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and went off to Boulder, where I was attending the University of Colorado and (surprise!) working part-time at a publishing company. After graduate school, I was less involved in group magical work. Now I typically attend a festival or two a year and try to just blend into the crowd—to be one of the guys carrying in the pine tree Maypole or something like that. My own practice is quirky and sort of animistic.  

EDW: After obtaining a bachelor's degree in English and Creative Writing from Reed College, and then a master's degree in Religious Studies from the University of Colorado, you entered into an academic career teaching English at both Pueblo Community College and Colorado State University–Pueblo. At work, were you “out of the broom closet”, and if so, did you face much opposition or prejudice as a result of your religious beliefs, as some other academics have done ?

In the typical university I think that any religious involvement is seen as intellectually suspect—a big wobbly—although one might get a pass for Reform Judaism or Zen Buddhism—anything that seems intellectual yet non-threatening.

I did not make a point of being "out of the closet," although my academic writing on Paganism was right there in my c.v., and Her Hidden Children was on the display table at the annual reception for faculty publications. For most of my time at CSU-Pueblo in the Dept. of English & Foreign Languages I had an excellent department chair who supported my work in studying religion, financed travel to the extent that his budget permitted so on. One of the reasons that I left that job ten or twelve years before normal retirement age was that he was retiring himself, and the future did not look as good.  

EDW: In the 1990s, you decided to turn your attention towards your Pagan faith, and edited a four-part Witchcraft Today series for Llewellyn through which you showcased a wide variety of Pagan authors. What was this particular experience like, and did it influence you in your later work in helping to fashion the academic field of Pagan Studies ?

Clifton's edited volume
Copyright Llewellyn.
Starting in about 1986, I became a regular writer and reviewer—a "contributing editor"—for Gnosis: The Journal of Western Inner Traditions, a wonderful quarterly that was published for about fourteen years in San Francisco. In addition, I began doing more column-writing for various Pagan zines—"Letter from Hardscrabble Creek" was originally a self-syndicated column before it became a blog in 2003. Around 1990 I was contacted by Carl Weschcke, president of the metaphysical publishing house Llewellyn Worldwide, who invited me to edit this series that he had in mind. These books were for practitioners, but I did try to keep them intellectually honest—for example, I forbade the use of such phrases as "It is said that . . ." or "Legend has it . . . ." One of the best things about editing the series, of course, was getting to know the contributors, for instance, Evan John Jones or Felicitas Goodman, the Hungarian-born anthropologist turned hands-on shamanism teacher [EDW: Many of my readers may be familiar with Goodman as the translator of Hans Peter Duerr's Dreamtime].

EDW: During your career, you've met and worked with a wide range of significant figures within the Pagan and esoteric movements. To my mind, perhaps the most notable was Evan John Jones, the successor to Robert Cochrane, with whom you co-wrote Sacred Mask, Sacred Dance (1997), a book for practising Pagans published by Llewellyn. What has it been like working with such eminent figures, and are there any particularly notable experiences that you feel you'd like to share?

John Jones was a friend by correspondence at first, although I finally did meet him and his wife, Val, in 1999 and spent several days with him in Brighton. Unfortunately, walking long distances was beginning to be difficult for him then and it was winter when I was there, so we did not get to visit some of his favorite sites. We did talk a great deal, and of course Cochrane was one of the topics—he gave me a group photo of Cochrane’s coven c. 1965, which I prize and which hangs on my study wall. One interesting thing is that while I have heard a great deal about Cochrane’s so-called "ritual suicide," in John’s view, the main reason for it was the breakup of his marriage—and with it, the coven—and it was accomplished with whisky and sleeping pills, rather conventionally, not nightshade wine. John was also an old soldier with a keen interest in military history, so if you could hold up your end of the conversation, you were as likely to find  yourself talking about Napoleonic-era infantry tactics or something like that as about witchcraft. I have met more "eminent figures" who were down-to-earth than those who want to dazzle you with their mysterious powers—not to say that the latter do not exist. A phrase that I heard at one of the large Colorado Pagan festivals sticks with me: "You can tell the elders—they’re the ones in blue jeans." In other words, not in flowing robes or crushed velvet gowns.  

EDW: You have already earned your own place in history as a “founding father” of Pagan Studies, being well known as the editor of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, the only peer-reviewed, academic journal devoted to this multidisciplinary field. Taking over as editor of The Pomegranate (then subtitled A New Journal of Neopagan Thought) from one of its founders, Fritz Muntean, after it went on a hiatus in 2001, it was you who helped relaunch it through Equinox Publishing as the academic journal that it is today, back in 2004. How did you come to adopt the mantle of editor, and what was the process of transforming the journal in an academic direction like ?

Actually, I like to call Aidan Kelly the founder of Pagan Studies, although I helped a bit by publishing him in Iron Mountain c. 1986. His friend Fritz Muntean was another of the founders of the West Coast Pagan revival in the 1960s in northern California, and later quite involved with the Craft scene in British Columbia after emigrating to Canada in the 1970s. After a career as a builder and craftsman, he entered the University of British Columbia to complete his bachelor’s degree and then pursue as master’s in religious studies. He started The Pomegranate as a serious journal for practitioners, and I had contributed something to it. (We still had not met face to face at that time, although we had many friends in common.)

Eventually he started urging me to take a larger role. From my earlier experience with Iron Mountain, I knew that it was hard to get a self-published journal into academic indexing services, etc., and I argued that we should make it a peer-reviewed journal publishing by a known publisher. During the American Academy of Religion meeting in 2001, we approached several, and Janet Joyce, who was just preparing to form Equinox, agreed to publish it if we could wait for her to complete her arrangements, which of course we did. 

EDW: Within the field of Pagan Studies, your most significant publication is undoubtedly Her Hidden Children (AltaMira, 2006), the first published history of the contemporary Pagan movement in the United States. What made you decide to take on this daunting task, and how did you personally find the experience of producing such a pioneering work ?

I had at least twenty-five years’ worth of books, little ephemeral magazines, and correspondence files—I had to do something with it! A major question of my life, going back to age ten or eleven, is how are we to related to the non-human world? It bothered me as a child that aside from a prayer for rain and an occasional blessing of animals or something, the Anglican Christianity I was raised in seemed to say nothing at all. Nor did the other denominations. Paganism seemed more promising, yet Wicca, in particular, had come to North America in the 1950s as books and in the 1960s as people and had primarily presented itself as a surviving ancient fertility religion. Yet somehow people started using the terms "nature religion" or "earth religions," and so my questions were how and why did those terms arise. I do not claim the definitive answer, but at least I made a start at it.  

EDW: You are also the editor of the Pagan Studies Series of books over at AltaMira Publishing, as well as the co-chair of the American Academy of Religion's (AAR) Pagan Studies Group. How did your role in these endeavours come about, and what progress do you feel that they are making for the academic study of Paganism ?

These two things happened almost simultaneously. The book series was thought up by an editor at AltaMira who had been on the fringes of the discussion, from around 1998–2000, about how to have both the academic study of Paganism and of "nature spirituality" in a non-theistic way represented within the AAR. That editor, however, lost his job, as did his replacement (such is publishing), and eventually my then-co-editor, Wendy Griffin, and I decided to find at better home for the series, which was Equinox, who were already backing The Pomegranate.

Meanwhile, an informal meeting at the AAR’s annual meeting in 1995 brought together people (many who frequently showed up at sessions on new religious movements) who were interested in the academic study of Paganism. In 1997 we met and decided to try to become an official AAR program unit—I remember that Graham Harvey was one of those pushing for it.

We were turned down on the grounds that we had not demonstrated that our work could not be fit into other units, e.g., the New Religious Movements Group. For the next few years we than organized "additional meetings," where by paying a small fee anyone can have a meeting scheduled a day before the official start of the annual meeting. In those sessions people presented papers, held panel discussions, and otherwise acted like a bona fide program unit. Then in 2004 we re-applied and were accepted, and we have passed two Program Committee reviews since then. Every year we try to hold at least one joint session with, for instance, groups focusing on indigenous religions, ritual studies, religion and ecology, or our old friends in new religious movements. Jone Salomonsen of the University of Oslo (author of Enchanted Feminism) and I are the co-chairs, and there is a six-member steering committee. 

Jone and I have felt from the beginning that Pagan studies is not so much about this group or that, but about Paganism as a way of being religious. For example, we have had presentations that focused on the treatment of images in a Pagan setting and in Mediterranean Catholic settings, which leads to joking about "the i-word" (idolatry) and to discussions of whether it is useful and usable in a scholarly setting or whether one would do better to adopt some term like "sacred materiality."

EDW: You're currently busy with both the aforementioned projects and with your own blog, Letters from Hardscrabble Creek, but what I'm sure many of my readers would be eager to hear is whether there are there any new projects or publications on the horizon ? I hear tell of a book on flying ointments...

Back in the 1970s, the anthropologist and neo-shaman Michael Harner advanced the view that the witch-trial reports of flying ointments indicated the existence of a genuine, underground, European shamanism. I believed him. Now I am not so sure. Nevertheless, flying ointment has important symbolic uses in discussions of both historic and contemporary witchcraft. For one thing, its use—or purported use—is used to maintain boundaries between certain types of practitioners, and that bears on the revival of so-called traditional, or non-Wiccan, Craft. And it might also work as a way to discuss theories of religious secrecy—I am just getting my research underway there.  

EDW: On a final note, I'd like to ask you, in your capacity as a practitioner-scholar with many years experience, in what direction you see the academic field of Pagan Studies developing over the next few decades ? In particular, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on some of the recent criticisms of the field, both from within the Pagan community, and from academics such as Markus Altena Davidsen ?

Davidsen's criticism was apt as far as it went, although it was based only on one book that did not necessarily display the methodological atheism that he would advocate. What he apparently does not realize is that these outsider/insider issues come up all the time at our AAR sessions, for example. But he is not there, he is in Denmark. Yes, the AAR has its roots in the theological (insider) study of religion yet incorporates many people who come in as outsiders. That tension is there, although it is ignored most of the time. We in Pagan studies have always been sensitive to any charge that we might be advancing some kind of Pagan-practitioner agenda. We have even scheduled our own "What’s wrong with Pagan studies?" session for our 2013 meeting. But I think that anyone doing "BLANK Studies" should be sensitive and reflexive about such criticisms.

As for the future, I make no predictions other than to assume that the field will continue to grow. Outside events cause changes within the academy too. At the November 2001 AAR meeting [EDW: just after the militant Islamist attacks of September 11], it was amazing to see how every neglected backlist book on Islam was displayed prominently in publishers' booths—and there are more sessions on Islamic topics than there were then.

EDW: Thank you, Chas, for taking the time out to talk to us today.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

An Interview with Dr. Dave Evans

Today, I talk to Dr. Dave Evans, an independent academic who has added greatly to the study of western esotericism in recent years. The author of both Aleister Crowley and the 20th Century Synthesis of Magic (2001) and The History of British Magick After Crowley (2007), he was also the co-editor of Ten Years of Triumph of the Moon (2009) and has published articles and papers in a wide range of different sources, both academic and popular, over the past decade or so. Furthermore, he was the mastermind behind both the Journal for the Academic Study of Magic and the Academic Study of Magic list-serve, both of which have been of real importance in bringing academics interested in the study of western esotericism, witchcraft, and other allied areas together in constructive dialogue. Arguably, no other scholar has done so much in recent years to bring together this disparate academic community. I ask him what life is like as both an academic historian and an "insider" to the world of esotericism, and talk Ronald Hutton, Kenneth Grant, and the future of academic research.

EDW: In your academic publications, you are very open about being a practitioner of ceremonial magic; when did you first become involved in the world of western esotericism and what would you describe as your own particular approach to the occult ?

Hell, that's a huge opening question. I had some weird experiences as a child, something I later found was a pretty common motif in various cultures. From the age of seven through to nine I was ill with about eight different consecutive diseases, and I spent some of that period pretty much "out of the game". I don't recall much of that time (I have no recollection of my seventh birthday for instance), but in retrospect I think the larger part of me was 'outside', looking in, consorting with spirits or however you want to define/describe it. I was attracted to all things Ancient Egyptian from an early age, and being taken to see the touring Tutankhamun exhibition in London in the early 1970s made a great impression on me, as did seeing the first TV pictures of man landing on the moon.

In my teens I started to explore practical magical things, and spent possibly too many years practicing 'traditional' ceremonial magic, the kind of things you find in Solomonic grimoires and suchlike. Fascinating stuff, which led me into [Aleister] Crowley, and then into what is loosely called chaos magic, which is a terrible name for something that is huge, often very elegant and so diverse as to defy simple definition (which is one of the attractions). Now (and for quite a few years) my approach is 'anything goes' and 'see what works', be that a formal invocation with all the robes and swords, or spraying an impromptu sigil on the pavement with mayonnaise. Some of that approach is described in the various Francis Breakspear books of practical magic.

EDW: At some point you decided to move into the realm of academia, undertaking a bachelors degree, a masters degree and then a PhD at the University of Bristol in 2006. What made you decide to explore the history of Western esotericism in an academic capacity, and what was your experience in doing so ? I can bet that there were some naysayers in both the esoteric and academic communities who weren't that receptive to what you were trying to do ?

Another super question. I did the fairly conventional life-path in some respects, left school, worked, partnered up with someone, split up with someone, and in the early 90s I was unemployed and single.... I was already writing stuff (which was published much later) and I rediscovered a thirst for finding academic stuff out. I took a couple of short college courses, and in those days it was a lot cheaper to go to University than it is now, so at 34 years old I started a BSc degree in psychology (a rational science subject being perhaps a weird choice for a magicko, but my early career was in Medical Sciences, so it was slightly comfortable from that angle). That opened some doors, I did a Masters in History (with a funding award), and while doing that I was introduced to Ronald Hutton at a conference, and eventually was interviewed for a PhD place under him, some scholarship money was secured (to my immense gratitude) and I started work on that in late 2001.

If there were only mere naysayers that would have been fine, but there was some active and pretty vile abuse and dissent from both camps. At that time Ronald was already a hugely influential historian, but he wasn't as big (and contested) a name as he is now. Being his student opened some doors for me, but as his Triumph of the Moon had not long been published (a couple of years) it also ensured some doors were firmly slammed in my face. Triumph, and some of the work of other academics, got a rough reception from the more fragile end of esotericism, from the kind of people who believe something historical is true just because their magical group leader tells them it is, and they tend to have loud voices when this flimsy view is threatened. Some academics didn't like it either; one noted Prof told me that they did not consider the subject (the history of esotericism) to be worthy of any academic time or effort, as they turned their back on me and walked away. My reply to that was not phrased academically, it was a lot more brief; I will never win any medals for tact... I had better not name names, those debates are old hat now, and it is less interesting than your other questions, so I will move on : ) Also, I should say that a lot of people were wonderfully kind, which I discuss below, it wasn’t all doom and gloom by any means, for every asshole there was at least one angel…

EDW: What was it like to undertake your doctoral research under Ronald Hutton, one of Britain's foremost living historians ? I've always found him to be very friendly and approachable, but at the same time it must have been daunting to work with one of “the Greats” ? Clearly, he inspired you enough to produce Ten Years of Triumph of the Moon (2009), a festchrift of sorts in honour of his historical study of Wicca, The Triumph of the Moon (1999).

*laughs* A quite astonishing experience, and one that I will treasure forever. One of Britain’s foremost historians ever, living or dead I would say. Someone would have to do a heck of a lot to top Ronald’s achievements. Having a conversation with Ronald is a delight, and I had him to myself every 3 weeks or so, for a precious half an hour, for almost 3 years. I am a very lucky person. He is indeed a very friendly man, but no pushover when you work for him- he is a superb adviser on academic work; firm but fair, and he will not allow crap work to get through the filters- he steered, cajoled, encouraged and generally supported some very difficult stuff I was doing, at the same time as managing his perpetually massive workload in other areas. It was daunting as hell, too- having read his stuff I was continually wondering how I was ever going to do anything to impress him. I think I managed that once or twice. I finished the PhD in late 2004, and with a bit of rewrite after it was assessed by the external examiners I got the actual certificate on Valentine's Day in 2006, which was cute timing, and I got to wear graduation robes of scarlet and imperial purple, which made me feel like the Pope for a day. I remain in touch with Ronald, and am one of the growing band of people whom he has officially or unofficially mentored in academic things, and I am friends with many of his past and current students- we are in some ways a loosely affiliated tribe, and there is a lot of mutual support between us all, maybe a bit like the Masons, but far less secretive!

Ten Years of Triumph, a book I conceived and edited a few years back, was my 'love letter to the universe', to steal a phrase from somewhere; it was my way of getting some great people (like Sabina Magliocco, Amy Hale, Geoff Samuels etc) together from all parts of the world to metaphorically wave a lot of coloured flags that semaphored a very big message of how much appreciation, admiration, awe, respect and, yes, how much real love there is for Ronald from many quarters of the academic and pagan world. A lot of these bookish tribute things about various people are produced in academia when someone retires, or when someone dies, but I felt it important that we said our piece then, and the tenth birthday of Triumph of the Moon was a great milestone. Ronald was, of course, generous and charming about our little project, giving it some of his valuable time when he was extra busy, and he kindly made an evening to come along to the very low key book launch in a Bristol pub, which was a memorable night for all who attended.

EDW: Your research brought you into contact with some of the seminal figures of late twentieth-century British occultism, including several individuals who are sadly no longer with us, like Kenneth Grant of the Typhonian Order and Andrew Chumbley of the Cultus Sabbati. How did you feel about interacting with these “big names” of the occult community, with the accompanying - and sometimes intimidating - mythologies and folklore that had been built up around them ?

Yup, it is an inbuilt benefit of doing modern history rather than delving into the 17th century etc, that many key witnesses are still alive, and I had contact with a lot of the names, who, for the most part were supremely generous with their time and very kind of spirit (for example Ramsey Dukes, without whom I don’t think I could have done anything like the research I did) and in some cases when it was in-person meetings their generosity extended to letting me have time with their private book collections. Some of them became, and remain, dear friends, for which I consider myself hugely privileged. Andrew was very helpful indeed, in ways that I was not able to discuss in a purely academic way in the thesis, and it was gutting when he suddenly died. If he had lived and completed his PhD, hell, he would have been something else…. And dear Mr Grant..... wow. I had been a fan for years, and getting a letter back from him at all was breathtaking.... and the content was even better than that. He lived to a ripe old age, and I am told he read parts of my book and quite enjoyed it. Yes, there is a hugely intimidating mythos around many of those people, and I tried NOT to be 'swooning fanboy' in these kind of circumstances, but it didn't always happen like that!

It is also very difficult when historical research starts to unpick and in some cases undermine a lore that surrounds a big name, and I got some pretty hateful stuff by email from a few Grant fans who didn't like me pointing out some historical problems with his tales, even though I made it abundantly clear that while pure academic work on him showed some logic problems, as a magician I had the ultimate respect for him. Unlike Amado Crowley, who I pretty much dismantled in every way possible, his claims were a dreadful case of fairytales (in a bad way) - which was a shame, I really *wanted* Aleister to have left a living vessel behind, with some massive magickal power. Maybe he did, but it was not Amado, and all the email abuse and threats from his students doesn't change that... As I said, for every asshole there were angels, and now that the fictional character known as Amado has “died” the abusive emails have stopped.

EDW: Both during and following the completion of your doctorate, you brought out published versions of your masters and doctoral dissertations in the form of Aleister Crowley and the 20th Century Synthesis of Magick (2001) and The History of British Magick After Crowley (2007). The latter received at least two reviews in peer-reviewed academic journals and many more on Pagan and esoteric blogs and websites, which were overwhelmingly positive, but at least one academic voice still seemed a little uneasy regarding your emic status as an “insider” to the very movement you were studying. How did you feel about those reviews and the reception to your books more generally ?

The publication was entirely due to the effort and vision of Katherine, my stalwart publisher [at Hidden Publishing], otherwise we would not be having this conversation now. To be honest I was glad of any review, as I had no idea what kind of, or level of audience I would ever get. The printed academic reviews took *years* to come out in some cases, which is the way the industry works, sadly. The insider-outsider status is a debate I myself still have problems with, so it should not be surprising that others do too! On the one hand people may think that you cannot understand a phenomenon completely unless you have been inside it, and on the other... well there is a problem of academic detachment and suchlike, potentially. I do not consider myself to be an apologist for, or a puppet of anyone (which as been suggested in some quarters). And even if I was a puppet, what purpose would it serve? it certainly wasn't for money; book sales in esoteric areas do not make people rich, I knew that right at the start...

The inside-outside argument can maybe be summed up in a metaphor: some writers think that to be a good clinical psychologist you need to have suffered from a mental illness, to give you more insight to the conditions you will treat. Maybe. But I do not know of any veterinarians who insist that you have to have been a dog in order to be a better vet. A simplistic answer, but right now I don't have a better one, because I don't think there is an answer, once you have been an insider (in anything) you cannot then be an outsider, so it is impossible to compare like-for-like, and both perspectives have relevance.

I am glad that anyone reads the stuff and then has anything intelligent to say about it. Those "reviewers" who have personal axes to grind are pretty transparent in any case, so I hope that readers of the duff reviews (for example on Amazon) can spot the difference, and there is a quite hysterically deranged and venomous “review” of Ten Years of Triumph online that came out within an hour or two of the book being published, and was obviously agenda-based, rather than about our content…. Ah well.

Two of the early reviews of the book-cum-PhD [The History of British Magick After Crowley] pleased me hugely as they showed the reviewer had really READ the book (whereas some of the more flagrant, but content-lite carping reviewers even got my name wrong, and that's on the front cover, doh) - one said it was a sensible book about a freaky subject (a paraphrase); which is a succinct and quite perfect comment. The other one was from chaos magic founder Peter Carroll, who said he hoped it would be a reference work for years to come, which was, I’m not ashamed to admit, another fanboy swoon moment. I've subsequently met and had lunch with Peter and thanked him for that. Andy Roberts gave it a stunning review in Fortean Times, and he also changed the unwieldy title into a great acronym, which we had not spotted during production: THOBMAC, for which I was grateful : )

EDW: You were also the mastermind behind the Journal for the Academic Study of Magic (JSM), a peer-reviewed academic journal which ran for five volumes from 2002 to 2010 before it came to an end, and is now much-missed. Could you tell us a little more about how that came about, and the scenario that led to its ultimate conclusion ?

No! I was CO-mastermind, my fellow PhD student (now Dr) Alison Butler was also hugely involved in that (check out her great book on the Golden Dawn by the way) and I remind people of that at every opportunity; if there is any glory to be had, she gets half. It was our joint idea and we both did a lot of work on it. It all came about one sunny June day in Bristol, in a cafe that is now long closed. Too much coffee prompted a lot of hapless moaning that getting academic journal articles on magic published was very hard (the fabulous journal The Pomegranate was at that stage in a long hiatus) and so after several more large coffees it became obvious that we could moan about it for years more, or we could do something about it. I mean, how hard could it be to set up a new journal? Hah.

If we had known... I think we might still have done it.... A long story, but in brief, we found a couple of willing and relevant Doctors (a journal needs a qualified review board) and we sent out an online invitation to send in articles. A flood of pieces arrived, some amazing, some amazingly mad. During this process, Mogg Morgan [proprietor of Mandrake of Oxford publishing], who I had email contact with about magical research, but had never met, offered to publish the journal. Bingo. From caffeine injected idea to finished printed product on shop shelves was just over nine months, which was actually impossible according to anyone in the industry, but we didn't know that at the time. We were very lucky to have Mogg's skill and reputation behind us, and his customer base... without that I think we would have launched independently and maybe sold five copies. Ever. These were heady days, we had a lot of support from Ronald, and we were able to run a launch conference at Bristol Uni, with subsidies from the Institute of Historical Research, and people still talk about that event, it was fabulous, we had academics and magicians on the same stage, talking to each other about common ground. Wow. apparently it was not a regular thing then. The journal grew and gathered both strength and additional editorial board members, including some Professors, but without an academic home it was costly to run, I put a lot of my own money into the admin and website, and a LOT of my time.

When my PhD was finished I had to find work to eat, and so I slowly started to devolve the JSM work to other academics, all of whom were very busy, and over a couple of years and a couple of issues the head of steam went down, and the gaps between editions became longer. While the JSM was very important to all of us, to wider academia it was not, it was a zero-scoring journal in terms of university reputation; it was not a headline-grabber, or anywhere that would generate funding for a research project (which is how universities run nowadays) and other work priorities beset the main editorial board. It all went quiet for about two years, and after a lot of prompting from me, I finally forced the editors to make a decision on the future. It was re-start or kill the title, as far as I was concerned. What actually happened, after much debate, was that the journal was taken over by some American postgraduates, but they took a long time deciding to rebrand and refocus it. Their journal is called Preternature, and I hear good things about it. The JSM is now like a fly embedded in amber, preserved and intact, and I am still very proud of all that I and the other hard-working members achieved with it, and in some ways it is satisfying that none of us made a penny out of it, it was done purely for love of the subject.

EDW: Another of your creations was the Academic Study of Magic list-serve that operates online, filling a much-needed niche among scholars operating in this field. You no longer act as moderator, but I think many would be interested in your perspective on how it all came about, and the direction that it has taken.

That was a natural progression and a sensible step. As papers for submissions to the JSM came in, there was a dialogue with the editors and the writers, and it became obvious that there was a vacuum; nowhere for like-minded folk to talk about this stuff. many academics who write about magical things are working in 'normal' fields, for example in one of the JSMs we had a great piece on Lovecraftian themes, written by a Doctor of Marine Biology. Nothing to do with his day job, but a super piece nonetheless. We set up the e-list, and apart from a (very few) flame wars it has been around for a decade now, and when I last looked had over 400 members, from (I think) 17 academic disciplines, and a lot of magical practitioners. I haven't been a moderator there for years, for the same reason as the JSM editorship, it is time-consuming, and I have enough trouble earning a living in a full week, I have huge respect for the people who do moderate the list, such as Dr Dave Green, as it is done with a very light but careful touch and allows for spirited debate, which is healthy. A very few times it got unhealthy, and that happened a while back, with a lot of offline abuse directed at me from a few correspondents, so I have been out of the list for most of 2012, as starving those correspondents of oxygen seemed to be the best way to shut them up.

EDW: You have a couple of new publications coming out very soon; would you care to elaborate a little more about your involvement with them ? Are there any other projects on the horizon ?

Out already! Earlier this year I had an edited book out, The Enduring Problems with Prophecy: From Early-Modern Times to 2012 and Beyond, which you can buy at any time, it will remain completely relevant after the world fails to end in a week or two! And it has some great pieces, from established stars like Julian Vayne and Ramsey Dukes, and some new writers who are going to be massive, like Al Cummins. I have a chapter in the just-published volume edited by [Dr.] Nevill Drury on Concrescent, Pathways in Modern Western Magic, which is a HUGE book, but filled with fabulous writers, both academic and magical (so, a tad like the JSM in style). The publisher, Sam Webster, is a current student with Ronald Hutton, so it is a nice closing of a circle there.

Future projects depend on both of (a) the western world economic slump eventually leveling out so that someone actually both wants to and has the spare money to buy a book again, and (b) my having the time inbetween earning a crust. For the last 12 months I have been chancing my arm overseas teaching English, often for tiny sums of money in far-flung countries, as I could find no work at all in the UK, and so after a period of being a “doctor on the dole” I sold everything that I owned and left the country. This was based on a terrifying statistic that if you are in the UK, aged 50 and unemployed, there is presently a 50% chance that you will not work again. Not for me, so I got out while unemployed at 49 ½ and took the risk, working in places with no welfare safety net etc.

Having the leisure time to write books in those circumstances is tricky, but there is a part-finished magical practice book that *could* be completed in 2013 sometime…. I was hoping it would be by the end of 2012 but this last job I’ve been in has been very demanding of extra working hours, so it’s a common theme, delays and day job taking precedence. A practical magic book that takes X hours to write makes a little money, an academic book that takes 4X hours to write will make about the same sum of money, so I have to look at the efficiencies of time. A lot of my scholarly projects have been put on permanent hold for the last 2-3 years due to all of this, including a book on the History and Social Function of Fraud, which I would love to finish researching and writing, but not as an unsupported researcher, it needs a university base.

EDW: And, on a final note, as someone who has been a practitioner-scholar of the subject for many years, where do you see the future of academic research into western esotericism in ten years time, or even fifty ?

Magical experimentation and research is very healthy, there are some great, diverse, imaginative things being done out in the field. It is difficult not to be enormously cynical about academic research however. That answer is linked to the economic slump. British university study in Humanities (history etc) has been mashed by this apology for a government that we have now, and the damage they have wrought will take a decade or more to fix WHEN they are voted out. If indeed it can be fixed. I am only one of hundreds of researchers who have been trained by the uni system and then simply let go when some out of touch millionaire minister didn't like a few sums and laid waste to a massively important system of education in the UK. That timescale (election date plus a decade [EDW: which will be 2025]) – which is an optimistic estimate by the way, precludes me from further involvement in a work role (if I ever get a job back in Britain, which is doubtful) as I will be retired or dead by then!

If it is fixed well enough and in time, then some amazing things can happen, but it depends on a new and fresh young crop of trained researchers, and if the lights go out completely in history departments due to funding issues, then it may not be possible to ever start from a stationary point and bring that skill base back up to speed, with a new cohort of minds to do the research work. That is the very depressing view. On the lighter side, freelance researchers abound (I would never call them amateur, as that has a connotation of not good enough, which is untrue), and with stringent academic techniques (which you can learn outside of a university, for sure) it may stay alive, and possibly thrive, but if it stays outside of academia we go backwards in time, in terms of academic respect for the subject.

In fifty? I will be long dead for sure by then, and I hope the slump is over by then, that we are teaching history again and that some keen young things are using Ronald's books, my books and those of many others as a springboard to piece together what the magickos of a hundred years before were doing, and what they were thinking... Whatever the Internet is in 50 years' time, I am sure they will be using it extensively, and that they will find this page on some archive site, so I will close here by blowing them a kiss for their efforts, and wishing them the happy discovery of amazing things :). Thank you Ethan, this was a lot of fun.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Announcing a forthcoming series of interviews....

Hello there fair readers! After admiring the two interviews undertaken with Professor Ronald Hutton - Bristol University's eminent historian and specialist in British folklore and contemporary Paganism - that had been conducted by Australian archaeologist and Pagan Caroline Tully over at her blog, Necropolis Now (from May 2011 and February 2012, respectively), I have decided to undertake several interviews of my own, which will in turn be posted on here for all you lucky young things to read.

My intention is to focus on the interview of academics whose scholarly efforts are focused in on those areas which particularly fascinate me; esoteric and Pagan history, as well as the archaeology of prehistoric and early medieval Europe, although I am more than happy to branch out from this if I feel that it is relevant. It is my hope that both established academics and aspiring postgraduates will take this as an opportunity to explain their ongoing research to a wider audience, and attract interest to their publications. I already have several subjects confirmed, themselves fairly big names in certain circles, so just watch this space!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

In Memoriam: Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (1953--2012)

I have just learned of the recent passing of Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (1953-2012), one of the world's foremost scholars of Western Esotericism. Aged 59, he passed away after a short battle with cancer last Wednesday, 29 August.

Born in the English cathedral city of Lincoln, he studied at both Bristol and Oxford before rising to academic notability during the 1980s, when he published a number of influential books focusing in on the history of Europe's occult traditions, at the time a largely neglected area of study. A prolific author, he continued putting together such tomes in more recent years, in particular focusing in on the role that Western Esoteric beliefs had on the growth and development of Nazism  and Neo-Nazism in such texts as The Occult Roots of Nazism (1985), Hitler's Priestess (1998) and Black Sun (2002). Perhaps his most important book however remains The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction (1988), widely recognised as required reading for all those interested in this fascinating subject.

Goodrick-Clarke was also instrumental in the establishment of the University of Exeter's Centre for the Study of Esotericism (EXESESO), where he worked as a professor in recent years. He was also a formative figure in the creation of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE), founded in 2005, and which publishes an excellent academic journal, Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism. Goodrick-Clarke was perhaps the most influential scholar of Western Esoteric History of his generation, and his name will continue to be remembered alongside those of other greats in this field like Frances Yates (1899--1981). All of us involved in this area of research owe him a great debt.

More information on this sad news can be found at Sasha Chaitow's Phoenix Rising Academy page. Chaitow personally knew Goodrick-Clarke, having studied for her master's degree at EXESESO, thereby bringing a personal touch to her memoriam.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Caroline Tully and one noisy critic...

Hop over to Necropolis Now, the online blog of Aussie archaeologist and practicing Pagan Caroline Jane Tully, to read a new interview with her conducted in April 2012 by the academic Sasha Chaitow that first appeared in the pages of the Greek magazine Fainomena. In it, Tully discusses her relationship with both archaeology and Paganism, and -- perhaps most interestingly -- her approach and interest in Pagan Studies. Catch it here.
As the interview reveals, earlier this year, Ms Tully came all the way over to Europe to undertake some research on the archaeological evidence for pre-Christian tree cults in the Aegean for her PhD. First spending some time in Greece, where the interview took place, she then popped over to London to do some work in the British Museum and a few other institutions in this country. It was then that we met up for the afternoon, having a delightful time touring the coffee houses and occult bookstores of Central London. She really is a delight, and I hope that we have the chance to catch up again, despite the great distance between Great Britain and its far off Australasian colony.

Caroline Tully, Australian Pagan and archaeologist.
Image (C) Craig Sillitoe, 2005.
Unfortunately, there are voices within the Pagan community who have decided that Ms. Tully is a bit of a bogeyman -- or, perhaps, bogeywoman -- attacking the quality of her scholarship and furthermore denigrating her as an individual, painting her out to be some sort of narcissistic media-whore who seeks only the spotlight for herself. Over at the Egregores blog, the vocal Web-Pagan who goes under the anonymous pseudonym of Apuleius Platonicus has lambasted Tully in a blog entry entitled "Pre-emptive response to the forthcoming adulation for Caroline Tully", published online on the very same day that Tully published her interview. Well known on the Pagan blogosphere for their vocal criticism of academics involved in Pagan Studies (in particular the University of Bristol's Ronald Hutton), Apuleius has clearly now set their sites on Tully, mockingly referring to her as a "[w]orld renowned graduate student" and asserting that "the interview dutifully perpetuated the mythology of Tully as both an important figure in both modern Paganism and a leading light in the pseudo-academic niche of "Pagan studies"." As I hope anyone with any knowledge of academia should be aware, labeling an established academic field -- however minor it may be -- as "pseudo-academic", is a serious allegation, and one that requires a substantial explanation; notably, Apuleius fails to provide any explanation whatsoever. Equally, as those who have the good fortune of knowing Ms Tully will be aware, she has never set out to present herself as either an "important figure" or "a leading light" of Paganism or Pagan Studies, and claiming so is downright wrong and bordering on slanderous. I see such statements as nothing more than a form of petty character assassination which is tantamount to schoolyard bullying.

Normally I would try to ignore the rants of these self-important bloggers who hide behind pseudonyms while posting offensive and erroneous comments about those hard working academics who do such an important job in studying these fascinating new religious movements, but in this instance I really was moved to speak out. Ms Tully is a wonderful person who both loves the world of Paganism and who aims to explain the rigour of academic scholarship to a wider Pagan audience, and she doesn't deserve the treatment that this faceless figure has meted out to her, hiding as they are behind their shield of anonymity. They are of course entitled to make critical comments of her recent opinion-piece in The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, entitled "Researching the Past is a Foreign Country: Cognitive Dissonance as a Response by Practitioner Pagans to Academic Research on the History of Pagan Religions," just as I would welcome Pagans to make critical comments on any of my published papers or reviews, but there is a stark difference between supplying constructive criticisms which ultimately enhance the world of scholarship (as academic reviews *should* do), and outright attacks on the work's authors themselves (which I'd expect from the tracts of poorly educated ideological extremists). As anyone acquainted with the Egregores blog will be aware, its author is clearly well read and well versed in archaeology -- this is no "poorly educated ideological extremist" -- but the behaviour exhibited in this particular post is thoroughly inappropriate and presents both misleading and downright erroneous claims about Pagan Studies and Ms Tully. In light of Apuleius' recent statements, I can only stress an old motto that my grandmother always used to say to me; "if you don't have anything nice to say about somebody, don't say anything at all."


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

"Wicca", "Wica" and the war of words...


Christianity. Buddhism. Islam. Each of these three words conjures up a mental image of a distinct set of different religious beliefs and practices to anyone with even the most basic understanding of Religious Studies. The word "Christianity" evokes imagery of Christ, the crucifixion, the Eucharist, while that of "Islam" brings to mind images of the Ka'bah, Arabic calligraphy, and - in our unfortunate world of rampant western Islamophobia - events such as 9/11.

Words are powerful things.

What, therefore, do people imagine when the word "Wicca" is mentioned ? Pentagrams? Naked women? Devil-worship? I suspect that such imagery would be prominent in the public imagination throughout the western world, where contemporary Paganism remains a small and much misunderstood religious minority. Nevertheless, today's musing is not about the views of cowans, as non-Wiccans have become known. Instead, I wish to talk about how practicing Pagan Witches, those who might call themselves Wiccans, Witches, Crafters, Old Religionists, or whatever else, understand and interpret the term "Wicca".

As both an archaeologist with a particular interest in the world of Anglo-Saxon England and an amateur Pagan Studies scholar, I became particularly interested in the actual term "Wicca" back in 2009, the same year that I commenced upon my studies at University College London. I proceeded to delve into its origins, resulting in the publication of my very first academic paper; "The Meaning of 'Wicca': A Study in Etymology, History and Pagan Politics", in The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 12(2), after a pretty grueling peer-review. For those interested, that paper can be found online here, at  http://www.equinoxpub.com/POM/article/view/10024. Unfortunately, I cannot afford to pay for it to become an open access article, and so it shall remain hidden behind a paywall until you, the reader, hands over the rather lofty sum of £12.00. It's a shame, but that's just the way it is.

Being of a distinctly leftist bent, I disliked the idea of knowledge being withheld from those who could not or would not pay for it, and so rewrote my 8000-word academic paper in a 2000-word popular format. I wanted to share my findings with the world. What's more, I thought that my findings were actually really important for the Wiccan and wider Pagan community in understanding their own history. I'd uncovered information that was, at that time, available nowhere else, not even in Professor Ronald Hutton's seminal work The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (1999). I offered up my popular article to Marion Pearce, the editor of British-based Pagan magazine Pentacle, in whose pages I had published a couple of articles dating back well into my teenage years, dealing with small-p 'pagan' art and the wondrous occult author Alan Moore respectively. Unfortunately, this seemed to be at the same time as Pentacle hit a snag, and for the moment at least it appears to have ceased publication, meaning that my article probably won't see the light of day for quite some time. Impatient as I may be, I did feel that this was a sad state of affairs, as I'd really love to see the Pagan community discuss and debate my findings and interpretations, so that they could point out any flaws or queries regarding my work. For this reason, I have decided that my first post upon this new blog of mine should be used to lay out what I have unearthed, in the hope that it reaches the wider Pagan community, for whom I really hope it shall be of some interest, and indeed benefit.

What do we mean by "Wicca" ?

It seems very clear from even a cursory examination of the published books and magazines within the Pagan genre that within contemporary Pagandom, and more specifically within the community of modern Pagan Witches, there are two distinct views on what the term "Wicca" constitutes:


  1. The first uses "Wicca" to refer specifically to Gardnerianism, the initiatory lineage of Pagan Witchcraft stemming from Gerald Gardner back in the late 1940s/early 1950s, as well as to its direct offspring, such as Alexandrianism (founded by Gardnerian initiate Alex Sanders in the 1960s) and Algard (founded by fellow Gardnerian initiate Mary Nesnick in the 1970s).
  2. The second uses "Wicca" in a much wider sense to describe the entirety of the Pagan Witchcraft religion, i.e. all those groups and solitaries who venerate a Great Goddess and/or a Horned God, commemorate seasonal-based festivals known as Sabbats, and practice magical rites in a circle based in part on earlier Ceremonial Magic. Under this definition, Gardnerianism, Alexandrianism and Algard are still considered to be "Wiccan", but so is Dianicism, Reclaiming, Feri, and a multitude of other traditions, including those DIY Crafts purported by Scott Cunningham and Silver RavenWolf.


From what I gathered from my discussions with other occultists and Pagans and also by perusing various blogs and forums online, there was an almost universal belief that the former of these definitions was older and in many respects more "authentic", while the latter definition only emerged following the explosion in the number of solitary practitioners in the 1970s and 80s. To put it bluntly, the research that went into that paper turned this widely held viewpoint on its head! What I discovered was that in fact "Wicca" had originally been used to cover the entire magico-religious Pagan Witchcraft movement, and that only later had it been re-appropriated by certain Gardnerians wishing to forge for themselves a distinct - one could perhaps argue 'special' - place within that wider movement. How did this happen, and how have so many contemporary esotericists become so misinformed ?

But Gerald Gardner first used the term "Wicca"...

It may well come as a surprise to many that dear old Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), homophobic Tory, liberated nudist, and Wiccan pioneer, never, ever used the term "Wicca" (or so contemporary scholarship can ascertain!). Such a fact is in direct opposition to a claim which is all-too-often repeated in Pagan and wider esoteric circles. Indeed, in all of his published writings Gardner only ever referred to the Pagan Witchcraft religion, which was then only in its infancy, as "witchcraft", the "cult of witchcraft" and the "witch-cult"; in the latter he was clearly influenced by the writings of Egyptologist Margaret Murray, whose seminal proto-Wiccan text The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921) was a clear influence on his thought and on the history which he crafted for his Craft.



Gerald Gardner in the Magicians Room of his Museum of
Magic and Witchcraft,  located in Castletown, Isle of Man.
This image was published in the Museum's
guidebook, (C) Gardner .


On the other hand, Gardner did refer to the practitioners of that Pagan Witchcraft religion as "the Wica" - note the single c! Under this category he included both members of his own 'Gardnerian' tradition (a term that was apparently only coined in 1964, the year of his death, by his rival Robert Cochrane) as well as the practitioners of the various other Pagan Witchcraft traditions that popped up in the 1950s and 60s, run by the likes of Charles Cardell, Sybil Leek and Bob Clay-Egerton. In his own words:


  • ""the Wica" referred to "the 'wise people',  who practice the age-old rites and who have, along with much superstition and herbal knowledge, preserved an occult teaching and working processes which they themselves think to be magic or witchcraft." 


He claimed to have learned this word, "Wica", from the New Forest Coven of practicing Pagan Witches whom initiated him in 1939, and while there is still a debate as to whether they were a real group or a little white lie of his, there can be no doubt that he was still using "Wica" as a word when he propagated his Gardnerian Craft through the Bricket Wood Coven and other groups during the 1950s.

This term, "the Wica", spelled with only one c, therefore referred to the community of Pagan Witches. It is completely separate from the word "Wicca", spelled with two c's, that is now typically used to denote the religion itself.  The belief that Gardner used the term "Wicca" to refer to his Gardnerian tradition really is one of the biggest misconceptions regarding Wiccan history still floating around. Only last week I was chatting to Philip Heselton ~ author of the excellently researched Wiccan Roots (2000), Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration (2003) and the new two-part biography of Gardner, Witchfather (2012) ~ in a London pub on one of his few trips down to the capital, and he told me of how often he had had to correct people about Gardner's use of "Wica" rather than "Wicca" ! Clearly, its a misconception that requires clearing up.


So if not Gardner, then where did "Wicca" come from....

As much as I hate to admit it, the short answer is that I'm really not sure. Worse still, I fear that in fact we will never know where and when the term "Wicca", spelled with two c's and referring to the contemporary Pagan religion, actually first emerged. The earliest trace of it that I am aware of was highlighted by the British Gardnerian Melissa Seims in a pioneering 2008 article of hers published in Michael Howard's influential Craft magazine The Cauldron; delightfully, the article in question is actually available for free on her personal website at  http://www.thewica.co.uk/wica_or_wicca.htm. Within this article, Seims noted that the term "Wicca" can be found in an advert placed in the paranormal-orientated Fate magazine and dated to 1962. Within the context of this ad, it was used to advertise a tradition a tradition of Pagan Witchcraft centred in Cardiff, Wales. Seims thought that the advert was connected to the tradition propagated by Charles Cardell and his 'sister' Mary, but in my paper I have expressed scepticism regarding such a claim.

What I can say with much more certainty is that by the mid-1960s, more and more Pagan Witches were referring to the Craft as "Wicca" both publicly and privately. Within Alex Sanders' Alexandrian tradition, which was centred first in Manchester and then in London, the term was also in common usage by both Alex and others; it was for instance used in the famous Alexandrian initiate Stewart Farrar's book What Witches Do: A Modern Coven Revealed (1971). It was also around this time that Gavin and Yvonne Frost founded their "Church of Wicca" after moving from Britain to the United States, but unfortunately I was unable to contact them to find out more regarding how they first learned of the term. In all of these usages, it is clear that these occultists are referring to the Pagan Witchcraft movement itself as "Wicca" rather than using this term to specify a select group of lineaged traditions within that larger movement.

The concept that only some practicing Pagan Witches could refer to themselves as "Wiccans" appears to have emerged in the midst of the revolutionary changes that rocked the Craft during the 1970s, particularly in the United States. The rise of the Dianic Wiccan movement that merged elements of the traditional Wiccan religious structure with the political message of Second Wave Feminism, accompanied by the increasing number of self-dedicated practitioners who learned their practices from published texts by the likes of Paul Huson, Lady Sheba, Doreen Valiente and Raymond Buckland, led many Gardnerians to reassert themselves as the true inheritors of Gardner's legacy, and as maintainers of his lineage, which they traced back to the New Forest Coven, and from that back to the Murrayite Witch-Cult. The re-appropriation of the term "Wicca" in specific reference to their tradition can be seen as a part of this process. In turn, many members of the non-Gardnerian Craft traditions such as Dianicism, Feri and 1734 simply didn't use the term "Wicca" widely, instead preferring the more emotive, and more controversial, banner of "witchcraft". Ironically, it was they who were using terminology that would have been more familiar to Gerald Gardner than the Gardnerians themselves!

Concluding thoughts: Where now for the Pagan community ?

If, as I hope, my findings reach a wider Pagan audience, then it will undoubtedly have ramifications - however small - for how the term "Wicca" is more widely used. The claim that Gardner invented the term or adopted it from the New Forest Coven has been shown to be poppycock, and can no longer be legitimately used to support the argument that "Wicca" should only truly be used in reference to Gardnerianism and its initiatory offspring. Similarly, I have been able to highlight the fact that the more inclusive definition of "Wicca", one which welcomed all the Pagan Craft traditions into its midst, was the older of the two by at least a decade. Does this ultimately invalidate the argument that only Gardnerianism-Alexandrianism can be considered to be "Wiccan" ? What too, of the impact on the Pagan Studies discipline; will scholars working in this area recognise the wider context in which they use the term "Wicca" ?

So, with this (rather lengthy) post over, I warmly welcome a discussion on such issues and how they may affect the Pagan community in future. What are your views? I'd love to hear them, in particular from Pagan Studies scholars as well as practicing Pagans and others active in the esoteric scene. However, please note that I am not interested in any direct criticisms of my argument on a scholarly level unless you have previously studied my paper in The Pomegranate; I will deem such attacks to be simply internet trolling and deal with them thus (I regretfully include this proviso as a result of some of the more purile attacks that have been launched at Pagan Studies scholars like Ronald Hutton and Caroline Tully in recent months, particularly following the publication of Ben Whitmore's Trials of the Moon). Of course, if you have read my paper and take issue with something in it, then again, I'd be interested to hear from you. Constructive criticism is always appreciated. :)